Family communication found important for memory care

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Patricia Foran, vice president of clinical services at Senior Lifestyle
Patricia Foran, vice president of clinical services at Senior Lifestyle

Taking the time to learn a dementia resident's life story is an essential tool in managing behavior in a memory care unit, an expert said in July.

Patricia Foran, vice president of clinical services at Senior Lifestyle Corporation, described her company's dementia care program called “Walk with Me” at the LTC LINK conference in Chicago. The program focuses on establishing each resident's life story and communicating with his or her family members. 

Senior Lifestyle poses questions to families such as, “Who was your dad?” and “What were his interests?” This gives caregivers a better idea of activities that might appeal to a particular resident, Foran said. It also helps predict and mitigate behavior.

It's not uncommon for family members to leave the “life story” page blank at first, which means a staff member sits down with them to work through it. 

“It really helps us dig deep into the odd behaviors that happen in Alzheimer's patients,” Foran said.

Sometimes, families might not want to share personal details or describe the behavior they've witnessed with the care team, she warned. 

To encourage participation, it's important to reinforce the idea that the care relationship is a forgiving one, Foran said. 

“It's important enough to have this history so you know the heart and soul of this patient,” she said.